Galapagos | Gills Club: Empowering young women in Galapagos

Gills Club: Empowering young women in Galapagos

By Voyagers Editorial Team
2024-03-08

The Club was founded by Dr Diana Pazmino and her colleagues, Yasuni Chriboga, Lauren Goodman and Angela Palomino. It began on San Cristobal Island, but has since expanded to include a new branch in Santa Cruz led by Sofia Green. Recently, we spoke with Diana and Sofia about this amazing project...

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Why did you decide to establish the Gills Club on Galapagos Island?

 

When I was young, my love of the ocean began. My dad used to take my brother and I snorkeling every weekend, and we would watch all of the amazing creatures that live in the ocean. It was my favorite thing to do, and defined me as a person. In my later years, I realized that not everyone gets to see the incredible nature around us. After completing my PhD and returning to Galapagos, I decided, with three of my students, Lauren, Yasuni, and Angela, to create the Club. The Gills Club in the US inspired us, but we also wanted to develop our own brand. The name "Chicas con Agallas" was chosen because it also means "courageous girl's in Spanish. ).

Can you tell me a little about the Club and the activities that take place?

 

The Club is divided into cohorts that last one year. Each group participates once a month in both laboratory and outdoor activities. These activities are designed to encourage girls' participation in conservation and scientific initiatives by involving them through games, hands-on experiences and discussions. They are introduced to scientists and role models, and they have the opportunity to learn and meet with all types of scientist. This helps us to encourage STEM careers.

How did you get involved in the Gills Club, Sofia?

 

Diana: Diana, I and my students work together daily to research elasmobranchs. (Sharks and Rays in particular). This is how Diana and myself met. Diana shared with me the story of how her and her students started the Gills Club in San Cristobal, and what an impact it had on the young girls within the community. The girls gained access to the ocean and their care and knowledge of their environment by getting involved with STEM at a young age. At the same time, the activities provided a safe place and empowered them to believe that they can do it. The project immediately connected with me.

After a year of learning about the project, I was approached and asked to replicate it on Santa Cruz. I did not hesitate. After announcing the club, the local community responded enthusiastically and within a day the spaces were filled. Since then, we have run a complete cohort. It's been an incredibly rewarding experience to give this chance to girls in my community.

What has changed since you went to school for female scientists on the Galapagos? When you were young, what were your opportunities?

 

Sg: My parents decided to bring me up in Ecuador, even though they still lived and worked on the Galapagos Islands. It was for this reason that I felt a special connection to the expansion of the club in Santa Cruz, and what it meant to young girls.

What is your vision and future plan for the Gills Club? What is the greatest challenge you have to face keeping the club running?

 

We hope they will continue to increase. One of our goals is to eventually reach Isabela, and Floreana. It won't come easy. We know it won't be easy.

SG: Although the Galapagos education system has made great strides, it still isn't comparable to that on the mainland. I hope to see more opportunities, such as the Gills Club, emerge, not just on Santa Cruz or San Cristobal, but on all the other populated Islands. I hope that by implementing activities such as these, our islands will grow and flourish in harmony with this unique archipelago.

Sofía Green with the Santa Cruz branch of the Gills Club
Photo: Charlie Pinder / Craghoppers

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